Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Eat Like an Author: Alan M Clark

When most people get bored, they eat. When I get bored, I brainstorm new series and features for the blog, and THEN eat. And not too long ago, as I was brainstorming and contemplating what I wanted to eat, I thought how cool it would be to have a mini-foodie series where authors share the things they like to eat. Photos and recipes and all. And so I asked them, and amazingly they responded, and I dubbed it EAT LIKE AN AUTHOR. 

Today, Alan M Clark, author of the bizarro early western The Door That Faced West, shares a southern recipe you are sure to fall in love with...


Certain flavors of the American South stick with you, especially if you are a Southerner as I am.  They create nostalgia to smell or taste them. As one who has written historical fiction about southern people and environs, such favors are just the thing to put me in a creative state of mind. I’ve always loved cajun and creole cooking. Visiting New Orleans and some of the surrounding State of Louisiana, I’ve sampled many different cuisines particular to that part of the world.  When not in that area, I’ve tried a cajun or creole restaurant here and there, but I never found the food to be very good. I wanted to make a good pot of gumbo or shrimp creole, but I didn’t much like the recipes I found.

In the ‘80s I taught painting at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN, and had a student whose name was Roberts (It’s been so long now, I cannot remember her first name). She had illustrated her mother’s cookbook.  Her family was from New Orleans. Her mother, Bobbie Roberts (I know the name because it’s on the cover of the book) had written the Mélange!  A Celebration of Louisiana Kitchens. In it, I found recipes that tasted like those you find in and around New Orleans!

I’ve altered the recipe for gumbo that I got from the cookbook a bit.  It gets rave reviews when we have a house full of hungry guests. Here’s my recipe, based on Bobbie Robert’s version.  

Mine I call Bog Mummy Gumbo. 

—3/4 cup oil
—3/4 cup flour
—5 onions
—1 bell pepper
—2 stalks celery
—1/2 cup okra
—1-large chicken, preferably a hen
2 beers
—a small dash of molasses
—1/4 cup “Whats-This-Here-Sauce” (Worcestershire sauce)
—season with salt and ground green and black peppercorns and cayenne pepper.
—1 lb. Andouille sausage.  If this cant be found use a smoked sausage such as Kielbasa
—cup of parsley
—cup of green onions or onion tops
—2 Tablespoons of Gumbo File (ground sasafras leaves)

All the vegetables should be chopped roughly. 

Make a roux in a heavy cast-iron pan using the oil and flour.  Heat until a dark brown, stirring constantly.  Do not allow to burn.

While roux is hot throw in all the vegetables except the parsley and green onions or onion tops.

Once the vegetables look cooked, dump in the chicken whole, pour in the beers, the “Whats-This-Here-Sauce,” molasses, and enough water (you could use stock made from boiling crab and shrimp shells) to cover the chicken.  Add salt and ground green, red, and black pepper to taste. Simmer slowly for 2 hours.

Remove chicken and allow it to sit and cool a bit.

Chop the sausage roughly and throw it in the pot.  Continue to simmer very slowly.

When chicken is cool enough pick off the meat and chop roughly, then return it to the pot.  Throw away the skin and bones of the chicken.

Add the last three ingredients and serve immediately in bowls over a small amount of rice.  Just before serving you can also put crab, shrimp, crawfish and such like in it.

Gumbo is one of those dishes that you can add a few extras to, such as cave crickets, crayfish, tree bark slimed by the Mingit Toad, oysters, and such-like.  It is usually cooked in a big pot, so be careful not to fall in—unless you really want to.


Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute. His illustrations have appeared in books of fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, young adult fiction and children's books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, is an Early Western that takes place in Tennessee and Kentucky in 1799-1800. www.alanmclark.com

1 comment:

  1. I'd feel too much like a Harp to eat it! :)